Come Back Soon, Tony!
Tony Stewart has always made it perfectly clear that the only exercise he gets to stay in racing condition is racing. That’s why Smoke races anything he can, anywhere he can and accepts the risk of doing so.
On Monday night he suffered a broken right tibia and fibula while leading a 30-lap American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) feature event at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oscaloosa. Initial surgery stabilized and cleaned the Grade 2 injury, This was Stewart’s sole injury in the accident, one that occurred when a lapped car spun his 360 winged sprint car in front of him. Smoke hit the lapped car and flipped, sustaining the leg injury. Additional surgery is necessary and Stewart remains in hospital near the racetrack for observation.
Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the three-car NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team co-owned by Stewart and Gene Haas, named veteran Max Papis to drive the No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend at Watkins Glen in the team owner’s absence. Papis, who’s driven just about everything but winged sprint cars, recently tested the No. 14 at Road Atlanta for SHR; he’ll be an excellent, exuberant substitute for Smoke on the undulating road course where Stewart has five Cup victories.
As the news about Stewart’s crash broke late last night and into this morning, the Twitterverse went nuts, as would be expected. Many called for him to stop extracurricular racing activities; others said these cars and tracks should be “safer”. This is the third incident for Smoke over the past month in his extracurricular racing activities. He walked away from another wreck in Canada a week earlier, where he flipped a sprint car five times. And bristled about it during his pre-Pocono press conference, where Stewart said it was nothing, that the people who run sprint cars expect this kind of action.
And he’s right; it usually is nothing. Sprints, midgets and other dirt-based vehicles flip all the time, are righted and drivers continue on. This was simply an accident and even AJ Foyt, whose No. 14 Stewart carries in homage to one of the greatest all-around racers, told Associated Press that Tony Stewart is a “true racer.” I’ve no argument with that.
It’s always been good to see Tony Stewart at the Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix races in Southern California, where he hides out in a trailer – except when he’s working on a car or racing one – just to make sure the event doesn’t become about him. This is how Tony Stewart relaxes and gets in shape, after all, by racing. It’s what he loves to do.
And I’m going to miss him over the next week – or however long it takes for his leg to heal – in the Sprint Cup, or in a sprint car. I hope his 42-year-old bones heal well and that he comes back quickly because sitting and waiting sure isn’t something Tony Stewart does well.
But waiting is something he’ll have to do. Stewart underwent a second surgery in North Carolina on Thursday, with a metal rod inserted in his lower leg to place both bones where they belong, anatomically. A third surgery could be in the cards, as well, meaning Stewart will be out of the car for longer than a single week. His team is evaluating drivers and expects to have other substitutes named within the next two days, they said. Smoke remains in hospital for observation.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit